Friday, September 29, 2006

Smart kid

When I first heard that my colleague was taking her baby boy to classes, I thought it was a load of crock. To force a new human being into thinking processes that can be dare deemed unnatural.

'To develop the right side of his brain', so I've been told. Apperently, we have been born using this particular half of gray matter until the age of six, after which we switch to the left for the rest of our lives. Which is odd, considering the fact that my head hurts on ALL sides when I start thinking too much for my own good.

Debra brings baby Edward in quite often to the office. Whether he's in the arms of his mother, the maid or snuggled inside his snazzy BMW of a buggy, the outer corners of his partially developed brows would be perpetually pointing to the ground. Initially it was heartbreaking, then it became insipid. Anger, sorrow, frustration, surprise or blatant glee, all the expressions this eleven month-old baby could possibly muster were represented with this meaningless frown.

I'm thinking, if I was sent to school at that age, I'd look worried all the time too.

One day my co-worker wanted to borrow the color printer connected to my PC. With her usual request of the machine being for important documents needed in hard copy for a meeting to be held in two minutes starting from the time of the request, I took immediate action and plugged in her thumbdrive.

As I kept an eye on the printer's progress, I noticed that the pages plodding out of it were of a simplistic visual nature. Just large pictures, and a word denoting each one. I saw a different kinds of sports, then car logos, then currencies from around the world...

"Flashcards for Edward," my co-worker informed me.

As she gaily began to mount the pictures on cardboard squares, my heart started to bleed for little Edward. So much information, so little space. Never in my life had I felt so selfish as to steal a child away from his own parents and raise him as one of my own, in gormless way of the 'Tard. A carefree life full of alphabet burping, booger pottery and earwax scent appreciation.

Debra came in with Edward later in the afternoon, and I asked her about the flashcards. Debra explained that the intelligence center had advised her to give Edward 'homework' to keep him stimulated at home until the next class. She decided to give us a hint of what this would involve.

Debra passed Edward on to another colleague. In a pair of unfamiliar arms, he started to squirm and squeal. Debra quickly got hold of a set of cards which we had prepared for her earlier on.

"Eddy, look here," his mother called. Edward turned to her, all form of sound and movement conceived from his miniscule body suddenly ceasing. His attention was hers to exploit, and thus she began the demonstration.

"Look Eddy, Football! Tennis! Hockey! Bowling! Golf!" Debra flashed card by card, all twenty-odd of them. Never stay on the same card for more than one and a half seconds, that was the rule given to her. All the while, Edward's eyes, now the size of saucers, remained fixed on the cards. The outer corners of is eyebrows, if my eyes were not cheating me, twitched momentarily. It was complete and utter immersion. All my colleagues watched him in awe. I did so in fear. How could this bundle of life who's lived 1/24 of my life possess a power of concentration that supercedes my own?

Once Debra was done, Edward snapped back into itchy-bottomed-baby mode, the same reaction one would expect right after being told to emerge from a hypnosis session at the count of three. Amidst the office spectators, Debra then selected two random cards from the pack, and showed them to Edward side by side.

"Now Eddy, can you show me which one is... Golf?"

Edward casually glanced at Football, then Golf. Tennis, Golf. Golf, Tennis. Tennis. Tennis.

Looking at his mother, then away into a faraway distance, his tiny left hand raised up and splayed its fingers messily on...


Everyone around him gasped in astonishment. A child barely into his first year of existence, being shown an array of sports - an activity he's too young to even comprehend - and the crazy kid points to friggin' Tiger on cue.

Thinking it was a fluke, I asked Debra to test him again.

Debra obliged, and pulled out Swimming and Tennis.

"Eddy honey, which one is Tennis?"

Edward looked at both in the same nonchalant manner as before, raised the same hand, and brushed it across a racket-wielding Martina.

Everyone applauded in delight, except for the 'Tard. She
took a few steps backward, fanning her behind in a frail attempt to disperse the smell of freshly shat pants.

Suddenly, I started visualizing the show I could possibly produce, of Debra and her miracle flashcard baby. Taking them to the streets, showing the mind-boggling trick to curious passerby: young and old, rich and poor. To enchant and enthrall, inspire and intimidate. The new age of street magic. I'd sell it to satellite TV. The ratings would soar. Jay Leno would crack a joke or two. And I'd be bringing home the Benjamins, baby.

I looked at Edward. Edward looked back at me with his insipid frown. I went back to work.

Looks like noone will be sniffing earwax with me anytime soon.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Zoo-per Trooper

I've been meaning to post these pictures up for the longest time - since March, to be exact - but just never found the time to go through the multitude of pictures. Now that I've finally have, I would like to present to you what is probably the largest image-driven blog post yet in my Nation.

The Zoorific Sessions were held late 2005 and early this year by Raleigh International. Its main objective was to encourage its members as well as the public to offer a helping hand in the everyday maintenance of the national zoo. This would include administration, cleaning out the habitats, preparing food for the animals, and looking after school groups on tour.

I was quite looking forward to the opportunity, but with Cyber-red suddenly not being able to offer her comradeship, I decided to wake up at the crack of dawn regardless, and head down on to make my first-ever visit to the the zoo.

I was quite apprehensive about getting there on time - if at all - since I rarely venture out so far on my own. *Cue Samwise Gamgee voice clip from LOTR film: "If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been!"* But the thrill of getting lost in Ampang was all too much to bear.

Looking out from the train.

If I was a Bear who Cared, this would be my Stare.

I stepped off at the Wangsa Maju stop, then hailed a cab quite easily to my destination. My heart tugged at my throat in fear of me getting my dates wrong - the place looked deserted. Luckily some college students turned up, and it was all good.

Good morning and welcome to...

Several more students came from a few local universities. They either conversed in Malay or Cantonese, so being the lone banana-tard, I made myself look busy with excessive camera fiddling. The Raleigh people eventually arrived in their bright yellow tees, and soon thereafter we were led in through the side of the main entrance.

Once we passed through the gate, we had to stamp our feet onto a moist patch of seemingly germ-infested sponge. We were then told that the sponge was actually soaked in a sanitizing solution, so we don't introduce any new bacteria into the premises.

They sprayed the wheels of incoming vehicles with the same solution. Wicked.

Team leader Albert and his rally of Raleigh-ans

One of the zoo personnel announced that we were to be split into groups and delegated to work in various offices and exhibits. Those who had previously worked at the exhibits decided to let the newbies get a taste of wildlife, and with that, I was conveniently slotted into the group assigned to help clean out Savannah Walk.

We all received badges, which unfortunately had to be returned by the end of the session. I got a kick out of wearing it while the afternoon lasted.

I is comin' home, momma.

Don't you wish you could take one home to decorate your front lawn?

Breakfast time

My group was taken to the animal enclosures to spruce things up. The guys working there were a jovial bunch. They split us again: one half to sweep up the road, and the other to hose down the empty animal pens.

'Tard on the loose

I found this on the shed where the gardening tools were stored. Personally, it freaked the bejesus out of me.

Wicked 'Tard of the West

I peeped into the pens where a few four-legged friends were temporarily residing in, either due to sickness, injury or the protective nature of motherhood. A few of them seemed fidgety, their eyes gleaming with anxiety to bust out of the wooden doors and back out into the artificial wilderness.

They should really clean this dude up.

Family Portrait

The male ostrich was quite a looker.

One of the zookeepers opened the pen for me to check him out further. This was the one and only picture I managed to take. If you sense the general direction of movement of the subject matter, it's quite self-explanatory.

The zookeepers then decided to throw in a bonus for us: to rake up the giraffe exhibit, with the giraffes obviously still inside. (And who said volunteers don't have all the fun?)

All aboard the Savannah Express!

We chugged into the open field, where we were supposed to be driven right into the heart of the enclosure. Unfortunately, we were halted by the big kahuna giraffe, whom despite being given strict commands by the zookeeper to move aside, stood his territorial ground.

We ended up having to go into reverse mode and park ourselves at the edge of the enclosure, and we got to work. It was a surreal experience, working on the same ground that the (mostly) genial giants call their home.

The zookeeper having a chat with his mates while we labor on.

No, I'm not nervous. Stiff, but not nervous. Shut up.

The mosquito population out here was just buzzin'.

A few ostriches were kept in the same enclosure. We were told that they were female, judging from their grey plumage. You know in cartoons, where female animals are depicted with more bodily curves and a pair of ridiculously long eyelashes? For some reason - might have been too much sun - I sorta saw that in these ostriches. One was quite the busybody, and kept snooping around us despite the zookeepers constantly shooing her away.

What every man wants: a fancy ride and a long-legged bird.

"... Ostrich legs are also lethal weapons: a kick can stave in a human being's skull." (Source)

After that was done, there was still time to kill, so the zookeepers took us back to the pens to let us feed some of the animals.

Have you no eye, deer. (Geddit?)

Making a buck to get some doe

Albert taking a break amongst the tubs storing the animal feed. I took a nibble. It was quite nice.

We were taken to the edge of the rhino enclosure, where another zookeeper was explaining to us how intelligent the creatures actually are. The reason why this fact isn't apparent is because they are also very stubborn. To prove this, he called the male rhino over by name. The rhino's ears flicked. "You see? He's listening..." the zookeeper chirped.

Eventually, the male rhino did in fact respond by coming closer to us, inch by inch, until he was finally almost right under out noses. We managed to pet him a little whilst feeding him leaves.

This is not a zoom-in. He really was this close.

The day finally wrapped up with a congregation of all the groups at the entrance and patting each other on the back for a job well done. It was a great day out. I learned a thing or two about wild animals and what goes into their welfare, and despite taking the risk of going solo, I ended up working together with great people who were just as dedicated to offering their services to keeping the zoo in tip-top shape.

Zoo Negara is always on the lookout for volunteers. For details, you can visit their website. You can also contact their Education Department directly, at 03-4108 2219.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

One Chapter Closes

Pulling up to the kerb outside my house today, emo rock blasting through the windows wound down, he groggily passed me a sturdy white plastic bag.

I opened the bag and glanced in to see the grand maroon samfu-style top I gave him during our weekend in Malacca.

"This top... it won't be of any use to me if you give it back..."

He responded with a resigning heave of his chest.

"I gotta go."

Then he zoomed off, emo rock continuing to contaminate the silent neighborhood air.

I brought the bag upstairs to my room, almost not wanting to properly check its contents but forcing my fingers to pry it open. When he said he wanted to 'drop of some of my stuff', I got more back than I had expected. All my gifts to him, all tangible form of memory, returned to its sender. My eyes fell upon a flowery handmade envelope. I peeled the expiring cellophane strip away from the flap. Enclosed was my first-ever love letter to anyone, when he and I first started going out. I started to choke. Then, another unfamiliar piece of raw unbleached paper, with his war-torn scribblings, explaining why he couldn't keep anything that was a part of me anymore. The envelope still felt weighted.

No, not the ring. For God's sake, not the r-

A dull chunk of metal slipped out onto my trembling palm.

I crumpled into my bed and surrendered to its softness, gripping the ring with all my might, forcing my defiant heart to accept that this really was the end.

It has been almost a week since we threw in the towel, and every day brings the agony of another cut freshly carved into my emotional flesh. This morning's wound was unbearable.

I've been told that there is never a good time to break up with someone, but in our case I believe there was. I had just come out of a four-month project that put a strain between him and I, but we fought through the pangs of loneliness and guilt respectively. The day after it was all over, we hugged an amazing hug. The feeling of being in each other's arms was an overwhelming reward; the feeling of coming home.

The very next day, we hugged each other goodbye for good.

I hate how reality bit me so suddenly, and so fricking hard, after triumph over adversity.

Mom suddenly revealed she had been talking to her family about my relationship behind my back, and then the next thing I know, she pulls out a letter from her sister and reads out to me the reason why Aunty Shirley disapproves of me going out with a Muslim. I screamed at her for making mountains out of molehills, but I was ultimately hurt not by her family's discouragement, but by my own admittance that the reasons actually made sense. Every time I wanted to put the issue of religion behind me, it would come back in more monstrous proportions, and it finally got too much for me to bear.

I met up with him that night to talk, and to perhaps find a compromise. But we knew there was none.

I love him, and I was in love with him, but I would have had to make a few sacrifices in my principles if I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, including the idea of my children being born with a right to choose their own faith. I dreaded the day that I would have had to put one priority on top of another that was equally vital. We knew were each other stood before we took our friendship to another level, so we knew that we would have had to confront the situation eventually. We just didn't expect it to happen so soon. Friends on both sides are shocked and lost for words.

Some people don't understand why the thought of marriage came so early in the relationship. I despise myself for looking so far in the future, but at the same time, I was petrified to stay around to find out if the prospect was there.

Everything was perfect otherwise. And that is what is making it even harder for us to let go.

I'm so sorry Bahir. I'm bleeding for you too.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Premiere of S'kali The Movie

Hi guys,

The wait for S'kali is finally over! It will premiere on 14th September 2006 at Cineleisure Damansara. The venue will let it run like a normal film at normal price, for two weeks. However, if the response is favorable, the run will be extended for another few weeks, so do come and support if you can. has dedicated this week to giving away free passes to a special hitz preview screening on 12th September. For more details, visit their website.

Also, if you're not too late to catch this blog post, Perantauan Pictures has also organized a rather intruiging contest to give away tickets to the exclusive press preview, happening this coming Friday. Closing date is tomorrow. Check out the production blog for more info.

This production has come a long way, so thanks loads for the patience and support. Hope you will enjoy the show as much as we did putting it together.

*BTW Happy Birthday Jayaram... Love you to bits.*

Cast of S'kali (L-R): Derek Ong, Angeline Rose, Zimy Rozan, Jayaram Nagaraj, Davina Goh

The Bridges have been Broken

Broken Bridges The Musical has finally come to a close after four months of rehearsals, two weeks of performance and nine hours of celebration. I thought I would never make it through in one piece. Not to say that I haven't - I've lost enough weight to perhaps suggest four fifths of my whole - but being in a musical isn't exactly a venture that one should delve into just for kicks. (After all, there's also the spins, jumps, and the beloved 'pain is your friend' pilates sessions.)

To whip a gang of mostly amateurs into singing, dancing, acting extraordinaires to the point of an audience member asking, "Are all these guys professionals?" is an accomplishment that would make both trainers and trainees beam with an uncontrollable amount of pride.

And that is why even after an overabundance of misfortunes in health and psychological makeup, I have lapped up every moment of being part of an ensemble.

To all involved and those who came to watch: Thank you for the experience. I'll upload pictures when I can.

Next stop, Ipoh town for real in November.

Flower can't wait.

See ya, Steve

Thank you Mr. Irwin.
For your zest for life, for your boundless courage, for your unbelievable compassion.
You were an inspiration to the world.
Rest in peace, mate.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Secret Heroine

The shrunken cheeks of my bottom shifting uncomfortably across the steel pipes that constituted the bus stop bench, I leafed over yet another page of my budget novel. The bus was extraordinarily tardy this morning, and the patch of morning sun escaping past the tree branches behind my back had started to force the bitter odor of scorched hair out of my already damaged tresses.

Bus No.5 finally pulled over, the oblong chunk of hot metal coming to a halt with the stifled screeching of old tyres and loose defecation of pore-clogging soot. I stepped onto the corrugated steel steps, and my eyes met with another pair, of intense dark brown. I was halfway digging into my wallet for coins when I had to look up again to properly notice the navy blue headscarf, the tidied eyebrows, the thin lips painted a violent shade of red.

The driver was a woman.

I know it shouldn't have been a big deal, but the last time I had witnessed a she-person behind the wheel of a bus was a certain panicky Ms. Bullock operating one at fifty miles an hour.

My face brightened in the bus driver's view, although her face remained ignorant. Or apathetic, I was unable to discern. I plunked a few coins into the fare box and bumbled my way around the crowd to get a good grip between two other anonymous hands on a pole, my feet embracing the floor of a bus that was driven by a woman.

During the two-minute ride from the Bangsar LRT Station to my office at Midvalley City, I would usually catch an insignificant nap or speed-read the last two pages of the chapter I'm currently on. This time, I just stood quietly between the re-furnished seats of gaudy orange felt, letting my ears sponge up the surrounding spill of multi-lingual banter in a bus that was driven by a woman.

The ride was no less smoother, nor faster or slower, neither did wet armpits stamp their brand of ink any less hesitantly on my blouse sleeves. But the situation that would have been a shrug to many was a smile of serendipity to the 'tard. I didn't personally know her, but I wanted to give her a huge hug. For facing the traffic jams, the carbon monoxide, the unforgiving weather, the unruly passengers, and taking it all in like a man.

As the bus parked itself by the Midvalley bus stand and the crowd started to compress themselves against the main exit in the centre of the vehicle, I pushed myself against the general direction of Malaysian kiasu-ness to reach the front of the bus.

"T'ima kah-say, kak", I told the driver with a shy smile.

She gave the faintest hint of a smirk and nodded. I stepped off the front of the bus in my heels like a toddler just learning to walk and I wandered off to my office with a memory of her sturdiness, hoping that it wouldn't be the last time our eyes would meet; hoping that by that next time, I won't provoke her too much when I try and tell her in Malay how much she rocks.